By Elias Hazou
AS fresh austerity cuts to their benefits and allowances bite, more and more civil servants are jumping ship.
From January to September this year, the Public Service Commission approved 688 applications for early retirement, compared to 734 people who opted for early exit in 2012 overall.
Last year the total number of civil servants retiring came to a little over 900, while this year the figure is projected to be slightly higher.
August was the month with the highest drop-out rate this year (189), followed by July (149). The lowest figures were recorded in April and March, when 25 and 26 civil servants retired, respectively.
The retirees are spread across all the ministries, but reports suggest the largest number come from the ministry of health. The vast majority of government employees going for early retirement have completed 400 months of service, making them eligible for full pension benefits.
However the torrent may slow to a trickle in 2014, for which so far only a handful of civil servants have opted to bow out. According to head of the Public Service Commission Pavlos Papageorgiou in 2014 the total number of retirees (early exit plus those reaching retirement age) is expected to reach just 30, going up to 126 in 2015 and then to 114 in 2016.
Under the revised agreement between Cyprus and its international lenders, the number of public sector employees must be slashed by at least 4,500 over the period of 2012-16, as a means of trimming the public-sector payroll.
As it stands, the numbers don’t add up, something that was pointed out by the troika inspectors during their recent mission here. Finance ministry officials claimed, however, that they forecast – at least for the near future – the pace of early retirements to continue, predicting that an additional 276 people will resign from the civil service by the end of this year.
To meet the targets, the MoU provides for a freeze on the hiring of new personnel on first-entry posts in the broader public sector for three additional years until December 31, 2016; implementing a policy of recruiting one person for every four retirees; introducing measures to increase the mobility of civil servants within and across ministries; and implementing a four-year plan aimed at the abolition of at least 1,880 permanent posts.
The MoU also stipulates a scaled reduction in emoluments of public and broader public sector pensioners and employees as follows: €0-€1,000 monthly wage by zero per cent; €1,001- €1,500 by 6.5 per cent; €1,501- €2,000 by 8.5 per cent; €2,001- €3,000 by 9.5 per cent; €3,001- €4,000 by 11.5 per cent; and above €4,001 by 12.5 per cent.
In addition, suspension of payment of increased Cost of Living Allowance (CoLA) for the public and broader public sector is to be extended until the end of the programme (Q1-2016).
And there will be an extension on the freeze of increments and general wage increases in the public and broader public sector and temporary contribution in the public, broader public and private sectors on gross earnings and pensions by three additional years until December 31, 2016.